Who's a Bigger Menace: Rush Limbaugh or Patrick Kennedy?


A reader who objected to my recent column about Rush Limbaugh and Richard Paey writes:

Can't wait to read your first column condemning the special treatment Patrick [Kennedy] received [from] the police and calling for a 25 year imprisonment [a la] poor Mr. Paey. Do you think that the DC DA will hold a press conference and announce that doctor shopping is being investigated and that he will demand Patrick's medical records to determine the source and quantity of the drugs? Should the MSM media, print and TV, echo the accusations on front pages and in prime time? Will they? Or will Patrick get a pass? Will liberal hypocrisy win out?

The short answer is yes, I guess. Doesn't liberal hypocrisy always win out?

But to clarify my own position: I did not say Limbaugh belonged in prison. I said neither he nor Richard Paey did, and I expressed the (probably vain) hope that the talk radio host's brush with the war on drugs would lead him to spend some air time criticizing it and speaking out on behalf of its other victims.

Be that as it may, what Patrick Kennedy did last week was worse, in terms of its potential impact on other people, than anything Rush Limbaugh has been accused of. The Rhode Island congressman initially blamed his car accident—in which he drove carelessly, nearly collided head-on with a police car, and crashed into a traffic barrier near the Capitol in the wee hours of the morning—on a combination of the sleep medication Ambien and the antihistamine Phenergan, which he said he'd been prescribed for gastrointestinal symptoms. Later he announced that he was re-entering treatment for addiction to painkillers, which suggested he also was under the influence of narcotics at the time of the crash. He denied drinking that night, but at least one witness contradicted him. In short, his behavior was reckless and put other people in danger, and there's little question that someone who was not a member of Congress would have faced charges as a result.

By contrast, Limbaugh's drug use did not (so far as I know) get him into any car crashes, and he was highly productive during the period when he was popping hydrocodone and oxycodone. I don't know whether Kennedy's narcotic habit impaired his productivity, but if it did it the rest of us probably can count that as a blessing. In any case, I'd say Kennedy's actions made him an appropriate target of law enforcement, whereas Limbaugh's did not.

Having said that, I would be surprised to hear that Kennedy has ever recommended the routine incarceration of drug users, as Limbaugh has, although I'm sure the congressman supports drug prohibition generally. Those who say Limbaugh's critics keep harping on decade-old comments have a point: Drug policy has never been a big issue for Limbaugh. But if Limbaugh's views about the war on drugs have changed in recent years, why has he never bothered to mention it? His recent comment about medical marijuana suggests his sympathies are still with the drug warriors, and unless he says otherwise that remains a fair assumption.